The NCAA 2018 season is in the books. The ratings for the championship game were solid, mostly because not many networks are going to program interesting things to watch ESPN seemed to have every one of their cable streams showing some aspect of the game. The broadcast reality is that the night was ruled by the silent collusion in televised sports. During certain events there is a distinct lack of any quality counter programming. Think about that for a second and realize that it just makes business sense. Everyone, ABC/ESPN, CBS, NBC, and Fox have a piece of the action, and no one wants to step on the other one for fear that something interesting will actually be telecast. So, we get 200 channels of junk up against one live broadcast of a big event. Backs are all scratched when the time comes as necessary.
The NCAA Division 1 Championship game was the culmination of the running joke for college football (In my humble opinion, anyway). The question for the last four seasons has been which two teams will be named to the national championship. Real on-field game day winners and losers were of lesser consideration. Great amounts of gas, sweat, and thinking were hammered into various articles over the summer ramp up and into the bulk of the season, until it all became fairly pointless around week 10. The reality on the ground was that no one had a shot to displace Dabo’s Orange Tide vs. the Nictator’s Big Crimson Elephant. They might have just played this nonsense on Day 1, and ended the gaseous waste about phony championships. The fact that this season both teams were undefeated and no other programs even came reasonably close to giving them any sort of competition actually illustrates the point very well.
So, most of the country either suffered through the game out of shear boredom, go do something else, or you are team fan. If it wasn’t for the hype the real ratings should have been pretty slim - if all things were actually equal, because neither Alabama nor Clemson are huge schools from large population centers. But all things are not equal, and the show was put on unchallenged. As it turned out the game was terrible, Alabama melted down, and Clemson ran away and hid before the 2nd quarter wrapped up. I suppose as an Editor for an ACC school I was supposed to be excited that an ACC school won the championship. Right, sure… I don’t root for the ACC, and would actually rather have the Hokies in the Big 10 but Clemson winning the championship wasn’t particularly good for the ACC, anyway.
What? I’m kidding, right? No, I am not. Between Clemson and Alabama the next few years will represent a serious negative effect on the available talent for the remainder of the conferences. Division 1 (Is there even a reason for this label; since there is no Division 2?) languishes drained of recruits and struggling to attract quality players. The fact remains that FBS NCAA Football is dominated by a few very high dollar programs, and the remainder of FBS can just live with their possibilities of playing in some level of booger bowl.
Why is that so? Well, the most obvious issue is the NFL Draft, and the huge number of NFL players that come from a very small number of FBS programs. I was reminded by a work colleague, about a year ago, that most kids who play football at any level of skill are not playing football to go to college. They are suffering the need to go to college to play football. If the NFL had a minor league, like baseball, most of them would not be attending any university for any reason. He laughed at the concept of NCAA amateurism. They are there for a chance to “get paid”. ”School has nothing to do with it”. ”The only education they are interested in is how to beat a double team, or run a better drag route enough to break it for a TD.”
Monday night, two prime examples of programs with massive draft potential, and whose starters are more often than not completely uninterested in attending any sort of school. What they want to attend is the Telecast location of the 1st round of the NFL draft. Many of them, over the next several years, will do so, too.
This sort of imbalance also causes a serious talent drain into various recruiting magnets which then accelerates the self-reinforcing feedback loop of preserving the big money big talent teams dominating a poll based “playoff”. So, how does this get fixed? Yes, it is terribly broken, and there is enough smoke of other off field things going on that continuing to lie to ourselves about it becomes poisonous.
This series of articles will cover some substantive suggestions on how big college sports can begin to actually get control over what is obviously careening dangerously off course from what it was meant to be, which was a mechanism to provide a chance at a college degree for youth who may not have another option available to them.
First up, we entertain ideas about how to get the quality high school talent funneled into more programs across a wider spectrum of colleges and universities. We’ll be thinking about it, here at Gobbler Country, and see if there is something to kick around. We don’t expect complete solutions, but as my old man always told me, if you have a criticism, and no suggestion as to how to fix it, all you have is a complaint. He hated complainers…